Oblivion (2013)


Link: Oblivion

Summary: After human civilization on Earth is obliterated by war or something, humans flee to a moon of Saturn.  Meanwhile, a man is stationed on Earth to help maintain technology that turns the Earth’s water into some sort of energy source they can use on Titan or something.  But when a mysterious vessel from space lands on Earth, the man discovers a human survivor, a woman he vaguely remembers, and he slowly comes to realize that the true nature of his mission and the true history of Earth are not what he thought.

Thoughts: The story was far too convoluted and left me asking a lot of questions.  It seemed like one of the driving forces of the story was its sense of mysteriousness.  Weird things happen and the main character has to piece together the true nature of his mission and the true history of Earth.  I think this would’ve worked better if the story had framed these as specific questions, and had the main character focus on answering them one at a time.  Instead, the main character is driven by a bunch of questions that all get muddled together, making his goal vague, making his actions hard to relate to.  That is, because he’s not seeking an answer to a specific question, we have no frame of reference to judge whether his actions get him any closer to an answer.  When the answers are revealed, they only inspire more questions.  It was liking watching a murder mystery in which the killer is revealed to be a robot, with no explanation given as to where the robot came from, why he was programmed to murder, and how he got away with it.  Granted, a fan of the film, or the graphic novel it’s based on, could surely come up with answers, but that I have to ask for them shows that it were not given very clearly in the film, ruining it for me.  A far superior sci-fi film featuring similar conspiratory mysteries, and a story that stays focused and followable, is Moon (2009).

Oblivion also features a complete waste of Morgan Freeman.  His character is so bland that they could’ve given the role to anyone.  That they obviously casted him just for his name makes me feel cheated.

I did enjoy the look and feel of the film (though do we really need so many crotch shots, Mr. Cruise?) and the sci-fi score, but not enough to make up for the overly convoluted story.

Now You See Me (2013)


Link: Now You See Me

Summary: Four magic-related entertainers are brought together by a mysterious ringleader who has them perform three magic shows in which they redistribute wealth.  Meanwhile, the FBI tries to track them down and figure out how they’re doing their tricks.

Thoughts: This is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.  The magic “tricks” involve sci-fi nonsense like 3D holograms and being able to hypnotize people to control them.  It’s hard to be dazzled by such ingenuity when we know it’s really the product of screenwriters being lazy hacks.  When other plot twists are revealed to have been part of the grand plan, they too have explanations far too outlandish to be satisfying.  The film spends so much energy trying to make each plot twist surprising that they completely fail to be meaningful, especially the film’s final twist, the revelation of who the mysterious ringleader is.  If you’re not saying, “I thought so,” or “That sure is stupid,” you’re saying, “I really don’t care.”  Take, for example, the twist at the end of The Prestige.  Perhaps you can see that film’s revelation coming from a mile away, but that’s because it’s meaningful, it plays into what the entire story is about.  This film’s final twist, on the other hand, tries so hard to hide itself that it makes itself completely arbitrary, and so has zero dramatic impact.

Aside from the ridiculous convoluted not-clever plot, there’s something a bit sickening in images of paper money falling like confetti upon happy crowds as if stealing from the rich to give to the poor is at all noble or romantic, or that it should make so many people so easily happy as they smile and jump up and catch it.  To me, it feels almost condescending, in a way.  “I know what’s important to you, poor soul!  Money!  So, here, have some!  Yay!  You’re happy now, aren’t you?”

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)


Link: Star Trek Into Darkness

Summary: Kirk and Spock try to stop a mysterious terrorist villain who has an evil plan.

Thoughts: I’ve never seen anything else from the world of Star Trek other than this film and Mr. Abrams’s previous Star Trek film, so I can’t compare this installment with past incarnations of the franchise.  So my reaction to this film comes from experiencing it in and of itself, and as a sequel.  I can’t say I much cared for it.  It felt like it was trying to create something emotionally between Kirk and Spock’s relationship, but it falls completely flat.  Spock, with all his logic, should be able to, you know, actually use it to understand how other people feel, even if he lacks much natural ability to empathize.  Similarly, Kirk, as a human, should also be able to use logic and empathy to understand Spock’s position.  The fact that neither character can figure things out makes them both seem incredibly stupid, unrealistic, hard to relate to, and certainly impossible to have any emotional interest in.  And this pretty much ruins the story for me, which is otherwise a pretty standard sci-fi action film.  And without any emotional depth, it all comes across as bland.  And as this seems to be a consistent problem with Mr. Abrams’s work, I don’t have really any hopes for the next Star Wars film.  (Though at least it’s guaranteed to be better than Episode 1, for even the worst Abrams film is a masterpiece compared to that.)

Memories of Murder (2003)


Link: Memories of Murder

Summary: Cops try to track down a serial killer.

Thoughts: (Spoilers ahead.)  Netflix claimed I would love this film, but it was wrong.  The humor and grittiness were a bit raunchy for me, and the ending annoyed me because, as it turns out, they never catch the killer!  All their leads go nowhere.  All the twists and turns in the plot lead to a complete dead end.  The climax is a complete dramatic let down.  (Although the music was good.)  It left me feeling like I had wasted time.  I realized afterwards that the story was based on the true story of the “Hwaseong serial murders”.  Of course, a lot of the film was fictionalized, but the murders really do remain unsolved crimes, which is rightly aggrivating and disconcerting.  But I don’t know why someone thought this would make great material for a film.  Maybe a documentary.  Anyway, the film was a success and is in IMDb’s “Top 250” (at position 214 as of this post), so a lot of people like it for some reason.  There is probably some Korean cultural and/or political subtext that is over my head.

Amour (2012)


Link: Amour

Summary: An old man cares for his dying wife.

Thoughts: (Spoilers ahead.)  Though it’s obviously a pretty feel-sad film, the artistry of the filmmaking was fantastic.  I loved the gentle pacing, the gentle camera work, the use of classical piano music, and the subtlety of the mood changes.  The ending annoyed me a bit as it seemed to portray assisted suicide as a difficult but morally acceptable decision.  I suppose one could argue otherwise, claiming it was just how those characters responded to the situation, but I’d still argue that because the film portrays no negative consequences of the action, it’s portraying it as morally acceptable.  It’s as if the characters forget the point of their lives when death is imminent, which is odd, since it’s the title of the film.  Killing people to put them out of pain (or to put yourself out of the pain of watching them suffer) is not love, it is fear of pain.